Pandemic challenges inspire new ideas…
After being forced to sit down for a few weeks, Mike Hall and I started to feel a little concerned about the future of our sport, the competition, the players, and the programs, etc.
Before the pandemic, we were already struggling to organize trips abroad to get those precious ITF points and development experiences for our young performance players. The economic cost, logistics, missing school, and finding the proper coach was always difficult to manage and always in the way of making it happen.
Traveling was important to offer for proper development, but in Canada, it is unfortunate that it was offered only to the few that were chosen by Tennis Canada. This ideology has been in place unsuccessfully in many countries where the National Association with their National Centers is competing with the privately-owned development centers. We believe that these un-cooperative efforts are hurting the development of our players, the tennis club industry and businesses, and ultimately our sport. We are still hoping for a cooperative effort that so far has not happened.
And then the pandemic hit us.
At first, we thought that it should not last too long and we would just go back to our day to day operation very soon. Well after a few weeks we all realized that it will be much longer and that the world we all know has changed for good.
We realized that traveling will probably not start for a while and that even if traveling starts, the cost will probably be much more expensive. Some experts have predicted the cost of airfares to go up from 40% to 60 %, the exchange rate of the Canadian money is around $1.36 Canadian for one US dollar. The quarantine requirement also prevents many people from traveling to play tournaments. And the tournaments, will they be available? Are the number of tournaments sufficient to supply the demand? Would the few tournaments be extremely strong and provide the opportunity to a very few? How will our players get proper exposure to get scholarship opportunities?
We looked at what we do have and how we can maximize it’s potential.
First, we now have the UTR rating system which allows everyone that competes anywhere the possibility to have valid international exposure. It does not matter that you get your rating playing locally or that you had spent an insidious amount of money playing the ITF junior tour tournaments. Your rating is your level of play (you get no bonus for playing more or playing far away). This allows us to break free of the ITF competitive structure potentially saving us time, money, and headache. We see this as a great opportunity to improve the logistic of our sport.
In Canada we have indoor facilities that during downtime have low occupation. We have graduate college players that are just fresh out of the competitive scene that provided the right opportunity for them and they would love to stay in the game. We have eager junior players that are thirsty for fun and competition. We have supportive parents that want to provide the best opportunity for their children. We have local businesses that want to be known by the locals and would love to participate in their communities. We have upbeat coaches that want to work and help that would love to use their skills in a team environment.
If we eliminate the traveling option, we realized that with UTR we have everything we need right here, right now locally! But, we need to do a better job of organizing it…
Mike, Myself and The Next Gen Tennis League
We both believe that there is a better way to deliver tennis
Top juniors need competition to keep progressing and to do it locally we are providing cash incentives to former college players, transitional pros to play on our league.
Most juniors will end up going to college and for most we make them play super boring pro tournament style with barely anyone watching. We decided that our tennis league should be fun, exciting and entertaining. The college format would create a far better atmosphere.
Playing tennis tournaments means that the whole family is hijacked for the whole weekend or the week. Our league plays once a week always at the same time. The family is free to have a normal life while one of their kids enjoy playing tennis.
In order to provide good competition for everyone and not playing always the same people - our premier league has no age or gender categories, you are selected by your UTR rating. As long as you are 13 years (in 2020) and older, you are eligible to register.
We offer our local businesses the opportunity to sponsor and own a team. We approached 6 businesses and they all signed up immediately to sponsor and participate in our league.
All the club facilities will be within driving distance and all within the GTA. We are helping to fill their downtime for courts. And for the parents, there are no overnight hotels and dining out which in turn saves them money.
Remember at the end of the day, the college coaches want to know if you can play and at what level, be a decent person, and a good team player. With NGTL and UTR, you can do this near your home.
If you think about it, the Next-Gen Tennis League just makes sense for tennis.
Where are we with N.G.T.L.?
In Toronto, we have secured all our local sponsors, we have our website and social media up and running. We are in the middle of registration, and have top marquee players registered. We have most of the head coaches and we are in the process of hiring the referees. Planning our draft day for the teams and we are on our way. Please let us know if you know someone that would like to be involved in our project, we are looking for a title sponsor.
What are our plans for N.G.T.L.?
We want to create many more leagues similar to this format. Different age groups, different locations, different cities, provinces, and potentially other countries. We realized that these are ambitious steps that we are putting forward but we feel that our kids, parents, and our tennis communities deserve it.
To conclude we are very proud of what we have created with N.G.T.L. The project requires a lot of work but we feel that for tennis to be successful locally we all need to do our part. The support from players, coaches, parents, local businesses, and tennis clubs have been fantastic. At this time I am hoping that more coaches and the tennis communities are on board to promote and spread the words. Game On!
Yves Boulais is currently the Tennis Director at the Ontario Racquet Club.
Mike Hall is currently the High-Performance Director at Ace Tennis Academy.